Fantasy football Stat Focus: Jamaal Charles capitalizing on targets

Saturday September 28th, 2013

Jamaal Charles is thriving in Andy Reid's new system, both as a running back and a receiver.
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI

When the Chiefs hired Andy Reid this offseason, Jamaal Charles had to be the happiest guy on the planet. Reid built his offenses in Philadelphia around Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, two backs with skill sets similar to Charles'. After being criminally under-utilized under Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel, Charles was finally getting a coach who would feed him consistently and potentially make him a superstar. Through three weeks, he still has to be the happiest guy on the planet.

Charles has always had game-breaking ability because he's just as good a receiver out of the backfield as he is a runner. It's the receiving skills that I want to talk about today. Charles leads all running backs with 24 targets this season, four ahead of Matt Forte, Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead. He also has more than big-name receivers such as Jordy Nelson, Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston. He had just three receptions in Week 1, but caught eight passes for 48 yards the following week before going for seven and 80 against the Eagles eight days ago.

You don't get that many targets by accident, and you don't get them all on checkdowns, either. I watched all eight of Charles' targets from last week. He was the first option on all but two of them. Just as important, only one of those plays was a screen, showing that the Chiefs are using variety to get him involved in the passing game. Let's take a look at a few of those plays.

The first play occurs on the Chiefs' second possession. It's 2nd and 10 at their own 44-yard-line. Charles is matched up with Eagles' linebacker Connor Barwin, who has literally no chance of staying with the speedy back in coverage. Donnie Avery clears out the corner, and Charles beats Barwin by so much that he's able to turn it up field for extra yardage.

This play is the final snap of the first quarter. The Chiefs lead 10-6 and have a 1st and 10 at midfield. Alex Smith is once again in the shotgun with Charles to his right. Charles runs a simple out going straight up the middle of the defense. He isn't the first read on this play, but the fact that he's again matched up with a linebacker means he's plenty open. Smith comes to him on his second read, and thanks to the fact that there isn't an Eagle within five yards of him when he catches the pass, the Chiefs pick up 13 yards.

Play three takes place with 56 seconds remaining in the first half, and the Chiefs beginning a drive at their own 32-yard-line. It's a simple screen out of shotgun, a staple of any team seeing if it can make something happen on its final possession of the half. The Chiefs do make something out of it, as the play goes for 19 yards. Look how beautifully they set it up, with left guard Jeff Allen and center Rodney Hudson creating a convoy for Charles. With the Eagles playing a single high safety and dropping all their DBs into deep coverage to prevent anything from going over the top, it's as simple as it gets.

Finally, let's discuss Charles' last target of the game. Kansas City leads 16-6 and it's 2nd and 9 on their own 14-yard-line early in the third quarter. Again it's shotgun, and again Charles is lined up to Smith's right. He sprints straight out into the flat, and this time Barwin blitzes. He shows the blitz early, and that makes things easy on Smith. Demeco Ryans is late getting over, resulting in 13 of the easiest receiving yards Charles has had in his career.

These concepts aren't novel, but they result in consistent receiving yardage for Charles. It's exactly what Reid did for McCoy in Philadelphia and Westbrook before him, and it's why Charles was the No. 2 player on my board heading into the season. At this point of the season, I wouldn't trade him for anyone in a straight-up deal.

All images are screen shots of All-22 film.


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